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Update: The below links for the Starwood Preferred Guest cards are expired, but you can learn more about the best current offers here!
At the moment we’re seeing limited time increased sign-up bonuses on three Marriott and Starwood credit cards, with the opportunity to potentially earn up to 317,500 bonus Marriott Rewards points if you apply for all three cards. The basic details of these offers are as follows:
- The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $2,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
- The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is offering 25,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 10,000 Starpoints after spending another $3,000 within six months; $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
- The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card is offering 100,000 Marriott Rewards bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months, plus an additional 7,500 Marriott Rewards points after adding an authorized user and having them make a purchase within three months; $85 annual fee
While the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs will eventually be merged into one (probably at some point in 2018), it’s already possible to convert Starpoints into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, and vice versa. This is really the best of both worlds, as we can take advantage of the relative strong points of both programs.
They’re much easier to get approved for
The Marriott Rewards Card is subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule, meaning that you’re unlikely to be approved for the card if you’ve opened more than five new accounts in the past 24 months. If you’re going to apply for a Chase card before you’re subjected to the 5/24 rule, I’d much rather go for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
Meanwhile anecdotally I find the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex to be extremely easy to be approved for. As long as you don’t run into the limit of five Amex credit cards, approvals on this card are easy. Furthermore, in the unlikely event you’re denied, keep in mind that this typically won’t negatively impact your credit score, assuming you’re an existing Amex customer.
Waived first year annual fee
While both the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex have a $95 annual fee, it’s waived for the first year. Meanwhile the annual fee on the Marriott card isn’t waived for the first year. This is a great way to essentially try the card before you have to “buy” it.
Better return on everyday spend
All of these cards offer one point per dollar on non-bonused spend. The catch is that one Starpoint is much more valuable than one Marriott Rewards point. Since Starpoints can be converted into Marriott Rewards points at a 1:3 ratio, the return on the SPG cards is three times better for non-bonused spend.
The SPG Amex cards are excellent options for everyday spend.
Better return on Marriott/SPG spend
Similarly, the Marriott Rewards Card offers five Marriott Rewards points per dollar on spend at Marriott and SPG hotels, while the SPG Personal Amex and SPG Business Amex offer two Starpoints per dollar spent at Marriott and SPG hotels, which can be converted into six Marriott Rewards points.
That’s a better return for anyone who frequents either brand.
Sheraton lounge access
One of the unique features of the SPG Business Amex is that it offers lounge access when staying at Sheraton properties. This is potentially very valuable, especially given that many non-US Sheraton properties have excellent lounges. The Marriott Card, on the other hand, doesn’t offer lounge access.
This might be your last ever chance to apply with the better bonus
It’s expected that the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs will be merged in 2018. We don’t know what the future of the program will look like, and which bank will take over the contract for the co-brand agreement. It’s possible that Amex will take over the whole thing, it’s possible that Chase will take over the whole thing, and it’s even not totally out of the question that the agreement will be split between Amex and Chase.
However, if history is any indicator, generally the company that’s taking over keeps their co-brand agreement. In this case, Marriott is taking over and has the bigger member base, so it’s probably more likely that Chase will take over the contract.
If that’s the case, this may be the last time we ever see this increased sign-up bonus, since we typically see an increased bonus once per year.
We’re seeing great sign-up bonuses at the moment on the SPG Personal Amex, SPG Business Amex, and Marriott Rewards Card. All of these bonuses are worth considering, and if you can apply for all three, then I’d consider doing so. However, if you do just want to apply for one or two, the above are some reasons why I’d consider the SPG co-brand cards rather than the Marriott one.